The Evolution of Beauty

General Programming

April 4, 2018 Wednesday, 6:15pm–8:00pm EDT The Heyman Center, Second Floor Common Room, Columbia University
  • Society of Senior Scholars
  • George Levine
  • Free and open to the public
  • No registration necessary
  • First come, first seated

Richard Prum, author of The Evolution of Beauty discusses his book, its implications and its problems, with the philosopher Philip Kitcher, the historian of science Deborah R. Coen, and the literary scholar George Levine. Prum's book, listed by the New York Times as one of the best of 2017, attempts to restore Darwin's theory of sexual selection, not only explaining through Prum's own original work in ornithology how it works, but also making a powerful case for the explanatory inadequacy of the popular "Darwinian" adaptationist paradigm in evolutionary biology. Sexual selection, particularly mate choice, Prum argues, accounts not only for the gorgeous plumage of male birds, but also for the splitting of humans from their simian cousins. Working independently of and often in conflict with natural selection, sexual selection leads us to a new definition and understanding of aesthetics. Perhaps even more strikingly, it leads Prum to a very strong feminist theory, with intellectually revolutionary implications.

  • Richard Prum William Robertson Coe Professor of Ornithology of Ecology and Evolutionary Biology Yale University
  • Deborah Coen Professor of History and Chair of History of Science and Medicine Yale University
  • Philip Kitcher John Dewey Professor of Philosophy Columbia University
  • George Levine Professor Emeritus of English Rutgers University
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